The Onslow family at war

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Violet, Countess of Onslow (1883-1954)

Daughter of the 3rd Baron Poltimore, Violet Bampfylde was a prominent society figure. She married Richard Onslow in 1906.

At the start of the war Clandon hospital was placed under the supervision of a Lt. Col. Grier, but his health failed in December 1914. Lady Onslow took charge as Commandant and continued until demobilisation. She also became responsible for the nearby convalescent hospitals, Broom House in West Horsley and Heywood at Cobham.

Lady Onslow proudly wore her uniform in public but described the lack of respect often experienced by women in uniform. Uniforms were associated with servants and the suffragette movement. She wrote of being pushed aside in taxi ranks in favour of male officers and of being ignored and unrecognised by friends of her mother’s in London.

After the war, Lady Onslow remained active in the Order of St. John and the British Red Cross. To commemorate her role she was presented with a silver salt, an Elizabethan-style standing salt cellar which you can see in the Speakers’ Parlour.

Richard, 5th Earl of Onslow (1876-1945)

After attending Eton and Oxford, Richard entered the Diplomatic Service in 1901, enjoying a successful career in Morocco, Spain, Germany and Russia. He returned to England to marry Violet and inherited the Earldom in 1911.

As soon as war broke out, Lord Onslow became a Special Constable and organised the gardeners at Clandon for bridge-watching. He was also asked to ensure that the villagers destroyed all strong alcohol, in case of invasion. He wrote of the offence taken by one lady, at the very suggestion that she ever kept strong liquor in her house.

In June 1915 he joined the Army as an intelligence officer, ending as a Colonel. He was awarded the Légion d’honneur for his work in France and was mentioned three times in dispatches. After his war service he entered politics and was appointed Under Secretary of War.